Reporting ‘with neither fear nor favor’ earns ethics award for MPR, NPR reporters

Allow us a moment of pride as we point out that a small cadre MPR newsies as well as David Folkenflik and Mary Louise Kelly at NPR, have been awarded 2018 Ethics in Journalism Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Both groups had a difficult task in the last year. They had to report on failings within their own organizations.

For the MPR team, it was Garrison Keillor’s alleged transgressions against a female employee.

To uphold the SPJ Code of Ethics, reporting on your own company is to tread in uncertain territory. You don’t produce a story like this, for example, without taking a fair amount of personal and professional risk.

That’s also true in the case of Folkenflik and Kelly, who outed their bosses’ apparent ability to look the other way with rumors of news boss Michael Oreskes’ behavior toward female subordinates.

Kelly’s interview of NPR CEO Jarl Mohn remains a textbook example of how to ask tough questions.

The SPJ news release on the awards said…

“What distinguished NPR and MPR in the media world was their treatment of the news when it involved their own staff members and management,” said SPJ Region 2 director Andy Schotz. “While [others] largely passed along statements from top executives and, on the air, told viewers how upset they were, NPR and MPR dug in as journalists, with the same drive and thoroughness as if the stories had happened somewhere else.”

In his nomination letter, Schotz noted that the NPR/MPR teams’ actions and reporting exhibited outstanding ethical behavior in alignment with the SPJ Code of Ethics. Folkenflik took the extraordinary step of refusing to participate in off-the-record staff discussions about the allegations so as not to compromise his ability to cover the story within his newsroom. Kelly unbiasedly interviewed NPR CEO Jarl Mohn about the organization and reported the story with neither fear nor favor.

Schotz said, “They interviewed colleagues. They pressed top managers and leaders. They developed sources. And they didn’t hold back in their reporting despite the obvious awkwardness of being in the middle of an important news story.”

The two organizations will be honored by journalists at a banquet in late September.